Encyclopedia > Landmine

  Article Content


A landmine is a type of mine: a device which is placed on the ground and explodes when triggered by a vehicle or person. Landmines are used to secure disputed borders and to restrict enemy movement in times of war. Because of this, and to avoid using the word landmine, they are sometimes called area denial munitions.

Land mines serve as force multipliers[?], allowing an organized and technologically capable force to overcome a larger enemy.

Table of contents


A landmine can be triggered by a number of things including pressure, movement, sound, magnetism and vibration. Anti-personnel mines commonly use the pressure of a person's foot as a trigger, but tripwire is also frequent. Most modern anti-vehicle mines use a magnetic trigger, to enable it to detonate even if the tyres or tracks did not touch it. Advanced mines are able to sense the difference between friendly and enemy types of vehicles by way of a built-in signature catalog. This will enable friendly forces to use the mined area while denying the enemy access.

Many mines combine the main trigger with a touch or tilt trigger, to prevent enemy engineers from defuzing it. Also, landmine designs tend to use as little metal as possible to make searching with a metal detector more difficult.

An antipersonnel mine that is used within a building or with some sort of psychological bait is called a booby trap.

Mines used by the U.S. Army and many other forces are designed to self-destruct after a period of weeks or months to reduce the likelihood of civillian casualties at the conflict's end.

Laying minefields

Minefields may be laid by several means. Mine-laying shells may be fired by artillery from a distance of several tens of kilometers, ejected from cruise missiles, or dropped from helicopters or airplanes. AFVs equipped to lay mines have also been built. However, if time allows, the preferred way is to place them into the ground by hand or with relatively simple tools, since this will make the mines practically invisible and reduce the number of mines needed to deny the enemy of an area.

Often anti-tank minefields are scattered with anti-personnel mines to make its clearing more difficult and time-consuming.

Efforts to ban anti-personnel mines

Anti-personnel landmines or APLs are widely considered to be ethically problematic weapons because their victims are commonly civilians, who are often maimed long after war activities have ceased. Removal of land mines is dangerous, slow and costly. Some countries maintain that landmines are necessary to protect their soldiers in war.

The use, production, stockpiling and trade in anti-personnel landmines was outlawed by the Ottawa Treaty[?] in 1999 which was signed by 141 countries, of which 120 ratified it. The biggest countries not to sign the treaty were China, India, the USA and Russia. The U.S. government has said that it will join the Treaty in 2006, if alternatives to anti-personnel landmines are in place by then. The treaty was the result of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, launched in 1992, whose web site at http://www.icbl.org has the treaty text and the complete list of signatories. The campaign won the Nobel peace prize in 1997 for its efforts.

The Ottawa Treaty does not include anti-tank mines and cluster bombs.


The legal export of anti-personnel landmines has ceased as of 1999. Anti-personnel landmines continue to be produced in the following countries:

(see [1] (http://www2.gol.com/users/bobkeim/landmine/lmupdatefac#prod_export)).

It was sometimes alleged that the Soviet Union used specifically designed mines looking like toys, to target children, in the conflict with Afghanistan. This is incorrect; however, the mines used were small, green, made from plastic and winged so that they could be deployed from planes, with the result that children often mistook them for toys.

Unexploded bomblets from cluster bombs have also the danger of landmines. Although they are not designed to be hidden, they may be, due to soft soil or vegetation. In addition, again, children may mistake them for toys.

In World War I, landmines were used at the start of the battle of Passchendale.

See also:

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article

... absolute governmental power, from the Greek language turannos. In Classical Antiquity[?] it did not always have inherently negative implications, it merely designated ...

This page was created in 31.3 ms